Many companies are committing to a more sustainable future. Likewise, Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) has earmarked long-term sustainability as one of its key strategic priorities.

Following a briefing to analysts to provide updates on its sustainability initiatives and commitments for environment, social and governance (ESG), analysts are positive on the banking group as it takes the lead in ESG adoption in the sector.

CGS-CIMB Research said it gathered that the bank’s exposure to ESG-vulnerable sectors only accounted for 5.4 per cent of its total loans as at end-March 2021.

These included the palm oil sector (2.3 per cent of total loans), oil and gas (two per cent), forestry and logging (0.7 per cent), coal (0.2 per cent) and mining (0.2 per cent).

“The small exposure to ESG-vulnerable sectors further supported our choice of Maybank as our ESG pick among the Malaysian banks,” the research firm said in a report last week.

It also noted that the banking group had the most comprehensive ESG disclosure and was also actively engaging with its customers to help the latter to improve their ESG standards.

Considering it is able to leverage on its regional network, this would also broaden the base of beneficiaries.

Under the group’s five-year strategy (M25), which was unveiled in April, Maybank aims to become the regional ESG leader by 2025 with a net-zero carbon emission position.

This includes providing 50 billion ringgit ($11.8 billion) in sustainable financing by 2025 versus the current 3.5 billion.

It also includes transitioning all its stakeholders to being net carbon neutral by 2050 and internally, by 2030.

It also aims to provide greater financial inclusion and welfare assistance for vulnerable communities.

ESG aside, CGS-CIMB is positive on the expected recovery in the banking group’s core earnings per share growth to a projected 9.2 per cent in financial year 2021, which it said was a potential re-rating catalyst.

It added that Maybank’s dividend yield was also attractive at 4.9 per cent for forecast financial year 2021.

UOB Kay Hian, which is also positive on Maybank’s sustainability commitment, said near-term direct impact on earnings is not expected to be material.

The research firm has maintained a “hold” call on the stock with a target price of 8.70 ringgit, while CGS-CIMB Research has kept its “add” rating with a 9.10 ringgit target price.